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Copyright & Fair Use: A Practical Introduction for Students and Faculty


“Fair use” refers to a series of factors that influence whether a person can be found culpable of Copyright infringement.  You may be able to use these factors to guide your

The factors considered are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of that which was used
  4. The effect of the use on the value of the work; and
  5. “Additional factors” (courts have the discretion to consider additional factors in determining whether infringement has occurred)

You may have come across a sign near the copy machine or in other libraries that limits your printing to “1 chapter or ten pages, whichever is less.” The reason for these limitations is because even though you are (presumably) not copying the work for a profit, this aspect of your use only goes to the purpose and character of the use. Copying too much of a textbook may demonstrate that a substantial part of the protected work was used. For more clarity on uses that may or may not help in a fair use defense, consider the graphic, below.


Fair Use Factors Graphic

It is important to note that a non-commercial use is more likely to be found a fair use than a commercial one, but because other factors may weigh strongly in favor of the creator of the source work, commercial use is not determinative on its own.


Because fair use is based on the weighing of factors, and because context is key, no one at the library can tell you whether or not what you are doing is fair use. What we can do is provide you with this framework for your own best practices to help you make better decisions about using copyright protected works.